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Government of North Korea

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Government of the
Democratic People's Republic of Korea
Emblem of North Korea
Formation9 September 1948
LegislatureSupreme People's Assembly
Communist Party
PartyWorkers' Party of Korea
General SecretaryKim Jong Un
ExecutiveState Affairs Commission
President of State Affairs Kim Jong Un
Cabinet PremierKim Tok-hun
Assembly Standing Committee ChairmanChoe Ryong-hae
MilitaryKorean People's Army
Supreme CommanderKim Jong Un

In the North Korean government, the Cabinet is the administrative and executive body.[1] The North Korean government consists of three branches: administrative, legislative, and judicial. However, they are not independent of each other, but all branches are under the exclusive political leadership of the Workers' Party of Korea (WPK).[2]


The leader must work through various agents and their institutions, which has the power to delay, modify, or even resist the leader's orders. These institutions may set the overall tone and direction for North Korea's foreign and domestic policy, make suggestions, offer policy options, and lobby Kim himself.[3]

The government is also confirmed by the Supreme People's Assembly (SPA). The Premier, who appoints three Vice Premiers and the government's ministers, heads the cabinet. The government is dominated by the ruling Workers' Party of Korea (WPK) and has been since North Korea's inception in 1948.

The Cabinet has the right to supervise and control the Local People's Committee (LPC,지방인민위원회) with regard to local economies and administration. As the State Administrative Council (SAC,정무원) was replaced by the Cabinet, the Local Administrative and Economic Committee (LAEC,지방행정경제위원회) was abolished and its functions regarding local politics transferred to the LPC. Under WPK former General Secretary Kim Jong Il, the cabinet's power was elevated to equal status with Workers' Party of Korea and Korean People's Army Ground Force (KPA).[4]

A party chief secretary no longer concurrently holds the post of LPC chairman, which has been taken over by a former LAEC chairman. Thus, the LPC is theoretically independent of the local party and is under the control of the Cabinet. The status of the LPC as the local executive organ, in principle, became higher than before.

The Economist Intelligence Unit listed North Korea in last place as an authoritarian regime in its 2012 Democracy Index assessing 168 countries.[5]


North Korea's judiciary is headed by the Central Court, which consists of a Chief Justice (판사) and two People's Assessors (인민참심원); three judges may be present in some cases.[6] Their terms of office coincide with those of the members of the Supreme People's Assembly. Every court in North Korea has the same composition as the Central Court. The judicial system is theoretically held accountable to the SPA and the Presidium of the SPA when the legislature is not in session.

The judiciary does not practice judicial review. The security forces so often interfere with the actions of the judiciary that the conclusion of most cases is foregone; experts outside North Korea and numerous defectors confirm this to be a widespread problem.[7] Freedom House states that, "North Korea does not have an independent judiciary and does not acknowledge individual rights...reports of arbitrary detentions, 'disappearances,' and extrajudicial killings are common; torture is widespread and severe".[8]

North Korea's fifth and current constitution was approved and adopted in September 1998, replacing the one previously adopted in 1972. The former constitution had last been amended in 1992. Under the new constitution, North Korea is a socialist state representing the interests of all the Korean people.[9] Criminal penalties can be stiff; one of the basic functions of the system is to uphold the power of the regime. Because so little information is available concerning what actually occurs inside of the country, the extent to which there is any rule of law is uncertain. In any case, North Korea is known for its poor human rights situation and regularly detains thousands of dissidents without trial or benefit of legal advice. According to a US Department of State report on human rights practices, the government of North Korea often punishes the family of a criminal along with the perpetrator.[7]

Workers' Party of Korea[edit]

The Workers' Party of Korea is organized according to the Monolithic Ideological System and the Great Leader, a system and theory conceived by Kim Yong-ju and Kim Jong Il. The highest body of the WPK is formally the Congress, which last convened as the 7th Congress of the Workers' Party of Korea in May 2016. Although the WPK is (in theory) organizationally similar to communist parties, in practice it is far less institutionalized and informal politics plays a larger role than usual. Institutions such as the Central Committee, the Secretariat, the Central Military Commission (CMC), the Politburo and the Presidium have much less power than that formally bestowed on them by the party's charter. Kim Jong Un is the current General Secretary of the WPK.

Relatively compared with other institutions of North Korea, the WPK remains to be the most ideological and views itself as the defender of the revolutionary way by emphasizing sovereignty and nationalism, as well as its commitment to a socialist ideology. Therefore, in theory, the WPK opposes accommodation and economic reform of any type.[10]

State Affairs Commission[edit]

In June 2010, Kim Jong Il appointed his brother-in-law, Chang Sung-taek, as vice-chairman of the National Defence Commission, in a move seen as propping up his own position. Chang was already regarded as the second-most powerful person in North Korea and his appointment strengthened the probability that Kim's third son, Kim Jong Un, would succeed him.[11] However, in December 2013 Chang was fired from all government posts and subsequently executed. Kim Jong Un ordered the execution.[12]

In June 2016, following the 7th WPK Conference, the Constitution of North Korea was updated, replacing the National Defence Commission with the State Affairs Commission and placing Kim Jong Un as the Chairman of the State Affairs Commission.[13] This places Kim Jong Un as the official head of state.[14]

Party leaders[edit]

General Secretary[edit]

Presidium of the Political Bureau[edit]

Members of the Political Bureau[edit]

Alternate members of the Political Bureau[edit]

Secretariat of the Central Committee[edit]

  • Secretary: Choe Ryong-hae, Kim Ki-nam, Choe Thae-bok, Ri Su-yong, Kim Phyong-hae, O Su-yong, Kwak Pom-gi, Kim Yong-chol and Ri Man-gon

Central Military Commission[edit]

  • Chairman: Kim Jong Un
    • Members: Hwang Pyong-so, Pak Pong-ju, Pak Yong-sik, Ri Myong-su, Kim Yong-chol, Ri Man-gon, Kim Won-hong, Choe Pu-il, Kim Kyong-ok, Ri Yong-gil and So Hong-chan

Department of the Central Committee[edit]

Control Commission of the Central Committee[edit]

State leaders[edit]

State Affairs Commission of DPRK[edit]

Members of the State Affairs Commission of North Korea are as follows:[citation needed]

Presidium of the SPA of the DPRK[edit]

The Presidium of the SPA is as follows:[15]

Supreme People's Assembly[edit]

The chairman and vice-chairpersons of the Supreme People's Assembly are:[15]


Some ministers of the Cabinet of North Korea are as follows:[15]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "North Korea names Kim Jong-un army commander". BBC News. 2011-12-31. Archived from the original on 2012-01-14.
  2. ^ Teen Life in Asia By Judith J. Slater
  3. ^ Kang, David C. "They Think They're Normal: Enduring Questions and New Research on North Korea- A Review Essay". International Security. 36 (3): 148.
  4. ^ Kang, David C. "They Think They're Normal: Enduring Questions and New Research on North Korea- A Review Essay". International Security. 36 (3): 147.
  5. ^ "S.Korea Outranks U.S. in Democracy Index". Chosun Ilbo. 2013-03-22. Archived from the original on 2014-05-06. Retrieved 2013-04-15.
  6. ^ "GlobaLex - Overview of the North Korean Legal System and Legal Research". Archived from the original on 2013-04-08. Retrieved 2013-05-15.
  7. ^ a b "Country Reports on Human Rights Practices". U.S. Department of State. March 8, 2006. Retrieved 2006-02-22.
  8. ^ "Freedom in the World, 2006". Freedom House. Archived from the original on 2007-07-14. Retrieved 2007-02-13.
  9. ^ Teen Life in Asia By Judith J. Slate
  10. ^ Kang, David C. "They Think They're Normal: Enduring Questions and New Research on North Korea—A Review Essay". International Security. 36 (3): 148.
  11. ^ Fading Kim sets the stage for power play Archived 2012-06-12 at the Wayback Machine, Donald Kirk, SCMP, 11 June 2010
  12. ^ "North Korea executes Kim Jong Un's uncle". Associated Press. 12 December 2013. Archived from the original on 13 December 2013. Retrieved 12 December 2013.
  13. ^ "DPRK Constitution Text Released Following 2016 Amdendments". nkleadershipwatch. Archived from the original on 18 April 2017. Retrieved 18 April 2017.
  14. ^ "N.Korea updates constitution expanding Kim Jong Un's position". NK News. 30 June 2016. Archived from the original on 6 October 2016. Retrieved 18 April 2017.
  15. ^ a b c "Chiefs of State and Cabinet Members of Foreign Governments: Korea, North - NDE". Central Intelligence Agency. 21 June 2018. Archived from the original on 4 August 2020. Retrieved 28 August 2018.

External links[edit]